Starting a job virtually is a challenge for anyone.
Meredith Schamun joined Penn volleyball in March as the Quakers' new coach following Iain Braddak's controversial two-season stint. Coming in just after Penn students were sent home for the semester, Schamun did not expect a traditional transition to her first-ever head coaching position.
“[The transition] has been difficult,” Schamun said. “It has its challenges. All that we’ve been able to do is virtual meetings, so phone calls, FaceTime, Zoom. We mix it up with doing stuff as a big team and in small groups.”
Before Schamun joined the Quakers staff, she had a successful playing career that began with her time in college at Rice. After her time with the Owls, she went overseas for a short stint in Italy followed by a full season in Germany. She transitioned to coaching from then on, joining Central Florida as a graduate assistant and director of operations for two years before spending two years at Tulane.
Most recently, she served as recruiting coordinator and assistant coach at Villanova. In her two seasons with the Wildcats, she helped the team on their way to a 39-23 combined record, a pair of Big East Tournament appearances, and a team ranking of 60th in the final NCAA RPI (out of 335 teams).
When the opportunity presented itself to join the Red and Blue, Schamun thought it was the perfect chance for her to start her head coaching career.
“It just kind of tugged on my heart,” Schamun said. “It’s a program I thought could do very well and has in the past. I think I have always gravitated towards high academic programs. I’ve enjoyed being at schools where players come for both an athletic experience as well as an academic experience and the balance between those two things.”
Despite the virtual restrictions placed on sports, Schamun has been doing what she can to meet her players and implement her system, getting them ready for a potential spring season.
“I think [coach] has done a phenomenal job,” junior Carmina Raquel said. “I think coming in as head coach is hard, but the fact that she hasn’t even met the majority of our team in person — but I think that everyone feels like they know her because of the amount of effort she has put in.”
Even with all of the issues she has had to deal with, Schamun has still managed to see her new players in person, setting up socially distanced lunches and coffee chats in California before doing more of the same when she came back to Philadelphia this fall.
“[One thing we did that I liked] was we had to send her a name of a person we want to get to know better on the team,” Raquel said. “It’s not something we think about often because we do have a very close team, but there’s always people we wish we know more, so we sent her the names and asked that person questions and presented them over Zoom calls, and it turned into a little pen pal thing, too.”
Schamun has taken control of her team in creative ways, hiring her first assistant coach, Evan Feltz, in September, and leading virtual workouts, meetings, and game-planning sessions.
Although things haven’t gone according to plan, Schamun is poised to take the Quakers to the next level when the team returns to play.